Still Bugged by Racism
In her younger days, Assemblies of God chaplain, pastor, and church planter Wanda R. Carter presumed that racists would die off when the older generation passed from the scene.
“I’ve come to see funerals won’t do it,” says the now-retired Carter, 73. “Others rise up and take their place.”
Over the years, Carter has done her best to change prejudicial attitudes. Carter isn’t overbearing or contentious. She is short in stature, and her words are mellow and measured. Nevertheless, she has a way of getting her points across.
That’s what happened at the 1989 Assemblies of God General Council in Indianapolis. Delegates debated passing a resolution on the “issue” of racism. Carter convinced the body to label racism a “sin.”
Carter believes there has been much progress in the intervening years. For instance, the number of black and other minority ministers in the AG has more than doubled this century.
However, she believes more work is necessary in churches and higher learning institutions to increase awareness of the reality of racism as sinful.
“Racism is against God’s plan for mankind because out of one blood He made all nations,” Carter says. “A racist denies and defies God’s plans and purposes for human beings.”
Carter accepted Jesus as Savior and received a call to ministry in high school while at a predominantly African-American Church of God in Christ congregation. When she moved to a different part of New Jersey, the town didn’t have a COGIC church, so she began attending a different Pentecostal group, a largely white Assemblies of God body.
At the University of Valley Forge in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, Carter formed a lifelong friendship with white classmate Barbara Clark. The two have served together in ministry for 43 years.
Carter spent 15 years as the founding pastor of Emmanuel Christian Center in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, before retiring as a local AG U.S. Missions chaplain hospital pastoral care director in 2010.
Last fall, Carter and Clark moved back to Springfield, Missouri, to be near Evangel Temple, the congregation they attended while enrolled in Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in the early 1980s. In a cooperative effort with the AG New Jersey District, Evangel Temple sponsored Carter and Clark in planting Emmanuel Christian Center.
Carter, now living in one of the whitest (88.7 percent of the population) cities in the U.S., plans to focus on prayer and intercession. She still is bothered by ethnic divisions, especially in ministry settings, stemming from bias, ignorance, or indifference.
“It’s not OK to treat people in a disrespectful way or to discount their abilities and talents based on race,” Carter says. “There won’t be racism in heaven. There will be people from every tongue and nation worshipping around the throne.”
Subsequently, Carter advocates that Christians on earth start practicing ethnic unity. It perturbs her to encounter someone touting racial superiority.
“Why is it so important for us to think we are better than someone of another race?” Carter asks. “Why do we gloss over our own imperfections?”
Carter suspects that some of the racial clashes occurring in America are a result of God’s judgment. She finds it unconscionable that Christians can hold racist views that might keep unbelievers from accepting Jesus as Savior.
“Imagine someone going to hell because of the way they were treated,” Carter says. “We can’t mistreat people that Jesus died for.”
Zollie L. Smith Jr., executive director of Assemblies of God U.S. Missions, has been friends with Carter since his days as a pastor in New Jersey. He says the Fellowship is blessed to have such a committed, compassionate, justice-minded servant.
“She is a defender for equality and justice, because she directly aligns her position to the will of God,” says Smith, 66. “In her view, everyone is important, everyone is significant, and everyone is a blessing of opportunity, therefore, there should be no discrimination against any one. She is bold and courageous through verbalizing her heart.”
Carter hopes to keep planting seeds that will foster dialogue.
“People will have to allow God to change them before we will see real change,” Carter says. “We’re not going to have a just, fair nation until Jesus returns to rule and reign.”